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In the last two decades, Web or Internet surveys have had a profound impact on the survey
world. The change has been felt mostly strongly in the market research sector, with many
companies switching from telephone surveys or other modes of data collection to online surveys.
The academic and public policy/social attitude sectors were a little slower to adopt, being more
careful about evaluating the effect of the change on key surveys and trends, and conducting
research on how best to design and implement Web surveys. The public sector (i.e., government
statistical offices) has been the slowest to embrace Web surveys, in part because the stakes are
much higher, both in terms of the precision requirements of the estimates and in terms of the
public scrutiny of such data. However, National Statistical Offices (NSOs) are heavily engaged
in research and development with regard to Web surveys, mostly notably as part of a mixedmode
data collection strategy, or in the establishment survey world, where repeated measurement
and quick turnaround are the norm. Along with the uneven progress in the adoption of Web
surveys has come a number of concerns about the method, particularly with regard to the
representational or inferential aspects of Web surveys. At the same time, a great deal of research
has been conducted on the measurement side of Web surveys, developing ways to improve the
quality of data collected using this medium.
This seminar focuses on these two key elements of Web surveys — inferential issues and
measurement issues. Each of these broad areas will be covered in turn in the following sections.
The inferential section is largely concerned with methods of sampling for Web surveys, and the
associated coverage and nonresponse issues. Different ways in which samples are drawn, using
both non-probability and probability-based approaches, are discussed. The assumptions behind
the different approaches to inference in Web surveys, the benefits and risks inherent in the
different approaches, and the appropriate use of particular approaches to sample selection in Web
surveys, are reviewed. The following section then addresses a variety of issues related to the
design of Web survey instruments, with a review of the empirical literature and practical
recommendations for design to minimize measurement error.